Showing posts with label Earth. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Earth. Show all posts

09 February 2015

Earth-Moon ballet

This animation of the Earth-Moon system was made available by the BBC. The animation was produced by NASA.

This has to be seen by as many people as possible; it truly puts our planet into a different perspective. While you watch, remember that the entire Earth-Moon system that you see here is itself orbiting around the sun, which in turn is orbiting the centre of our Milky Way galaxy, which in turn is heading slowly towards an interaction with the Andromeda galaxy. If that doesn't inspire awe, nothing will!

07 May 2013

Photos of the Earth

Chris Hadfield has a better view from his window than most of us. He has been living and working on the International Space Station and has been active with a camera in his spare time. This recent example is typically stunning. Enjoy!

The Moon rising above Earth at night
Chris Hadfield is a Canadian astronaut, soon to end his command of the International Space Station (ISS).

During his tour of duty he's been an active photographer, taking and publishing dozens of stunning images of the Earth.

Here is a recent image showing city lights in the south-eastern part of the USA with the Moon rising above a small slice of blue sky on the horizon.

Chris has a good eye for composition and every picture he publishes has been excellent and breath-taking. He's been publishing these images from the ISS using his Twitter account. Isn't it amazing how 'normal' life in orbit has become?

Another favourite activity for Chris has been making videos demonstrating the effects of weightlessness in response to requests from people back on Earth.

Questions:

  • If orbital flight was cheap, would you enjoy a holiday in space?
  • If you could take just one photo on your space holiday, what would it be?

See also:

13 November 2012

The end of the world?

How long can we go on treating the Earth as an endless provider? There are limits to our resources and we're in the middle of an explosive increase in their rate of use. Are there too many people on this planet? What will happen if we go on like this?

Too many people using too many resources?
Well, maybe not the end of the world, but perhaps the end of the world as we know it.

Hurricane Sandy and other natural disasters around the globe make us ask the question, 'Why?' We want to know why things like this happen. It's a natural enough question. It's tempting to think it's not our fault, that disasters happen randomly.

Storms like Sandy do indeed happen randomly, but their frequency and severity are increasing because of human-induced global warming. But where will it all lead? That depends, and it depends on you and on me.

The size of the problem - To get to grips with this we're going to need a broader and more thorough view of the damage we are currently wreaking on poor old planet Earth. Indeed, we've already gone beyond the planet by making a good start at messing up low Earth orbit, now so littered with everything from flakes of paint to spent rocket stages that it could easily become unusable.

We need to grasp that we have not only messed up but that we are continuing to mess up faster and faster. And the almost inevitable result will be an enormous population crash from disease, lack of food, ecological collapse, war, severe climate change or some other catastrophe, or more likely a perfect storm of several major issues in synergy. And the longer we go on doing little to make things better, the more serious the disruption will be.

It's comforting to think that somehow, sooner or later Papa will reach into our world and repair it. But it's more likely that he foresaw the mess and is waiting for us to fix it; he gave us the responsibility and he's warned us repeatedly. But we weren't listening. And we're still not listening.

I'm 65 next birthday and have begun to think of my life as something that will soon be winding down and ending. This is natural, of course. But I am also starting to think of human society as we know it in much the same way. And, not unreasonably, we can even see the universe itself like that if we choose to.

The way forward - We're in a far bigger pickle than most of us realise. And our biggest problem (because to a large degree it causes all the rest) is overpopulation. That's the dark picture painted in outline.

After the crash there may be an opportunity for something new and better. But that is not something to consider right now. Instead let's begin work right away. What is needed? Why, the fruit of the Spirit. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

It doesn't sound much of a solution to global warming, does it? But if we truly loved one another we would not be willing to leave such a mess for the next generation. And if we had a little more self-control we might walk and cycle instead of taking the car, demand fewer gadgets, waste less food. If we were really patient, kind, faithful and gentle how might that affect the way we behave?

What we can do - We do have a choice. If we start now we can make some major changes. It's far too late to prevent global warming but it will warm faster and to an even more dangerous level if we delay still further. I would identify population growth and industrial growth as our largest enemies. They are the root cause of pollution, carbon dioxide release, loss of habitat and natural diversity, species extinction and the rest.

The alternative is to carry on as we have done before, stopping our eyes and ears to the signs of looming disaster. Let's leave it for another generation...

Let's be clear. Advances in technology can help us but we will need to be careful about our choices. Where technology can reduce wastage and support more people for less impact that is a good thing. But we need to use this good thing as an opportunity to reduce our impact, not as an excuse to increase our numbers and consumption.

In the longer term there is only one route for further expansion - outwards. There is still room for growth in space - perhaps on the asteroids, Mars, or the Moon. But Earth is more than full already.

We're demanding far too much of our planet. Stop it! Now!

Questions:

  • What do you think will happen if our population and consumption continue to grow?
  • Many small changes make a big difference. Are there ways you could save a little energy, food or other scarce resource?
  • Are there ways you can apply pressure to your local or national government to be less concerned about growth and more focussed on reducing our impact?
  • If we don't act today, how long should we wait?

See also:

02 November 2012

Why is life dangerous?

Why is there so much danger in the world? We examine how random chance is necessary if we are to have a choice and how choice is necessary if we are to be capable of love. The most surprising thing is that there are not many more disasters.

Mount Pinatubo in 1991
What underlies the fact that life is dangerous and the Earth is such a dangerous place? Wherever we look we see danger and catastrophe lying in wait for us. Road accidents, volcanic eruptions, storms (like Hurricane Sandy), diseases of all kinds, violent crime; there's no denying the risks we face daily.

Some of these hazards can blamed on human wrongdoing or failure. Violent crime is an example of wrongdoing and most road accidents result from failures of judgement, design, construction or maintenance. But what of a volcanic eruption? Who is to blame for that?

Let's put dangers into three broad categories - deliberate human action or inaction, unintended human action or inaction, and natural events. Of the three, natural events form the category we want to consider in this article. We need to begin by understanding that the universe has always been open to the effects of chance.

Let's elaborate a little. We don’t know how the universe came into being, all we can say is that we have a pretty good idea how it developed after the first tiny fraction of a second (10-35 s). But we do know that since that first fraction of a second, randomness and chance have been (and remain) fundamental to its development. Sub-atomic particles flashed into existence and then, just as suddenly vanished again. They still do that today, what we regard as a perfect vacuum can be shown to be a sea of churning activity.

Chance is absolutely necessary in a universe where there is to be some freedom of choice. Why? Because we can only choose if we live in a universe where things are not normally determined in advance. My understanding is that Yahweh created a universe in which intelligence would arise and in which any intelligent life forms would be able to know him and choose to love and follow him.

Perhaps we see a glimpse of this in 1 Kings 19:11-13. We'll be exposed to many things during our lives, but Yahweh is not present in the outward tumult and danger; he communicates quietly. We may fail to notice him if we are focussed on the loud and dangerous things.

Let's put it very simply. Love requires a universe in which things are not directed. Volcanoes can erupt, earthquakes can shatter cities and hurricanes can flood coastal plains. The chain of  dependency is that love depends on the ability to choose, and choice depends on the existence of chance. In other words chance makes choice possible and choice makes love possible.

It seems to me that the real wonder is not that bad things sometimes happen, but that they happen so rarely. We certainly shouldn't blame Papa for random disasters, but we should thank him for such an exquisite combination of personal freedom and relative day to day safety. This supreme balancing act is something worthy of great praise, awe and gratitude.

In conclusion we have to take a small amount of rough with the surprisingly large dollop of smooth. Thank you, Father, for doing such a great job of designing this universe! Truly you are worthy of praise.

(This article is based on a comment I left on an article on the Jesus Creed blog.)

Questions:
  • People sometime ask, 'If there's a God, why does he allow suffering?' How do you answer this?
  • Has this blog post provided any unfamiliar arguments about suffering?
  • Do you believe a creator is free to create things without regard to logic?
  • Is a universe possible in which something could be simultaneously true and false?

See also:

03 May 2012

On a spiritual journey?

< No earlier items | Index | Drawn to the light >

A picture of a lake and a clearing sky sparks some thought about the spiritual aspects of life. Everyone has views on spiritual things, everybody believes something and pictures like this can help us explore our own hearts and spiritual awareness.

Everyone is on a spiritual journeyFrom time to time I'll try to post something here that will appeal to people on spiritual journeys. This is the first of them.

See all these articles

Everyone is on a spiritual journey, though not all of us realise it.

We may follow any religion or none, we may call ourselves Buddhist or Hindu or Muslim or Christian or Atheist, or (add your own) but we all hold something to be true and have understandings and motivations seated deep in our nature - deeper than the intellect, deeper than emotions.

I'd like to spend a few moments drawing some thoughts from the picture above (click on it to see a more detailed version).

There has been a storm but the dark clouds are clearing and the glorious blue sky is beginning to take charge again. The water below speaks of peace and cool freshness. The sunlight shining on the face of the water reminds us that we need light to live, it speaks of seeing and warmth and comfort.

The earth is dark and shadowy, it speaks of everyday living, of things that are hidden from us, and of mystery, of things present that we can't discern, perhaps of trouble and toil and anxiety.

The far distance speaks to us about places we have not seen and can hardly imagine, it's an invitation to explore. The haziness causes it to merge imperceptibly into the sky above. Sky and earth are connected, but they are connected through a veil.

Which part of the picture speaks to you most strongly? What is it saying to you? Where are you in your spiritual journey? Maybe you can leave a comment and share something of your story.

Where you are coming from isn't important. But where are you going next in your journey?

What are your greatest hopes and deepest fears?

Whoever you are, whatever you believe, may you be greatly and unexpectedly blessed in your life, today and always.

If you like what you read here and want to make contact check out the 'About' tab under the page banner.

< No earlier items | Index | Drawn to the light >

10 March 2012

The Earth at night

Seeing the Earth from a new perspective is always worthwhile. If you are interested in astronomy and spaceflight you may have seen this before, but if not you might be astonished at the beauty and sheer excitement of these moving images. Most of them show the Earth at night.

The Earth by nightI've been unable to find time to blog recently, but I hope to get back to it again soon. Meanwhile here's a treat for the senses, a series of time-lapse videos from the International Space Station (ISS) set to music.

You will see yellow city lights at night, blue-white lightning flashes, beautiful green aurorae and more. It is just glorious and gives a real sense of the Earth's pulse. It seems as though the planet itself is alive! This material comes courtesy of NASA via the APOD website.

Chances are, you have never seen the Earth in this way before. Enjoy it and marvel at the beauty, colour, and sheer dynamism of the planet you live upon.

18 September 2011

TECHNOLOGY - A trip on the ISS

How amazing to watch the earth as the International Space Station whizzes past. This video was made by James Drake from a long series of still images. You can see land, ocean, clouds, cities, and thunderstorms as well as the edge of the atmosphere and a brilliant sunrise.


For best results view the video in HD at YouTube. Visit the item on James Drake's blog for more information. But meanwhile consider just what you've been seeing...

The Space Station (ISS) orbits up to 16 times daily at a height of 280 to 450 km and typically travels at 27 700 km/hr. The stars, city lights, and thunderstorms cannot be seen in the brightness of full daylight. The general illumination in the video is probably moonlight.

The forward looking camera is fixed so the structure of the station doesn't move in the video; and the earth rolls past beneath (although it's really the ISS that is moving). The track here is north to south, covering almost half way around the globe beginning over Canada and finishing neat Antarctica. At normal speed the video would last around forty minutes, but it's been speeded up.

Seeing this left me quite stunned. The beauty of the night-time earth and the brilliance of the arrival of day are so beautiful. And just think of all the people living their lives down below. Both North and South America pass below during this one brief video.

12 October 2010

ENVIRONMENT - The cost of damage

This article from the BBC News website spells it out pretty clearly. Environmental damage comes with a heavy price ticket, but the underlying and far bigger issue isn't mentioned. Because our population is way more than the planet can support (and still growing rapidly) it may not be possible to chart a way out of the mess we have created. We have left it far too late.

BBC article on the cost of environmental damageBut it's encouraging that a major news provider is publishing an article like this one. At last, after many decades of warnings from the scientists there is growing evidence that the media, governments, and businesses are beginning to accept that we really do have a problem.

Of course there are useful things we can do. We have already started to do some of them (renewable energy, fishing quotas, emission controls, banning persistent pesticides, and much more). But we are in a phase of the human story where improvements are becoming harder and more costly to achieve while the costs of not making those improvements is also rising rapidly. And I don't mean financial costs alone, but costs in terms of living standards, health, and human safety.

The first step towards any hope of recovery is to recognise that we have a problem. It's becoming clear that at last we're taking that step. Now we're in the phase of broadening and deepening our understanding of the issues we face. That, at least, is good news.

See also: Biology and the economy, Climate change - an update, Nitrogen trifluoride - should we be concerned?

Copyright

Creative Commons Licence

© 2002-2017, Chris J Jefferies

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. A link to the relevant article on this site is sufficient attribution. If you print the material please include the URL. Thanks! Click through photos for larger versions. Images from Wikimedia Commons will then display the original copyright information.
Real Time Web Analytics